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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review

by George Mensah
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Intro

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra marks the return of Samsung’s beloved Galaxy Note series. It is, after all, a Note in disguise, but the more you use it, the more you understand it. Samsung has combined the best of the Note lineup, including the S Pen and eye-catching design, with the essence of the Galaxy S series, including powerful cameras and a large battery, to create the ultimate all-in-one phone: the Galaxy S22 Ultra!

This phone truly has it all: a 4-camera system with a long-range periscope zoom lens, a built-in S Pen that doesn’t sacrifice battery size, the latest and most powerful Android processor, the latest generation Samsung AMOLED display… basically, everything a blockbuster flagship requires. Then, on top of that, there’s a record-breaking screen brightness, a more granular refresh rate, and a few fancy colors.

Of course, all of this comes at a premium price of $1,200, which is not significantly higher than the previous year’s model, despite the numerous new features. So, should you purchase the S22 Ultra? Are there any exceptions? Let’s go exploring!

Design

The Galaxy S22 Ultra stands out in a crowd thanks to its signature sharp edges and camera styling. Like you’d expect, it’s a glass and metal sandwich design, with Corning’s tough Gorilla Glass Victus on both the front and back, and an enhanced “Armor Aluminum” frame in the middle.

This year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra colors include a new signature “Burgundy” red edition, which is the most eye-catching new color. Traditional black and white models are also available, as is a very interesting Green colorway, which is our personal favorite.

The sharp edges and slightly wider form factor make this phone appear larger than even some quite large phones in terms of pure size. Those looking for something more compact will undoubtedly be disappointed by the S22 Ultra’s size (the smaller Galaxy S22 might be a better fit). Consider the size and weight differences between the S21 Ultra and the S21 Ultra from last year:

S22 Ultra dimensions: 163,3 x 77,9 x 8,9 mm, 227g
S21 Ultra dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm, 229g

On paper, it’s not much, but in practice, the new model feels much wider. It also weighs slightly less on paper, but you’re unlikely to notice such a minor difference.

The power and volume buttons are on the right, there’s a USB-C port on the bottom, no headphone jack, and no microSD card slot. On the plus side, the entire package is water and dust resistant, thanks to an official IP68 certification.

Display Quality

The screen is a massive 6.8-inch diagonal display with the same M11 Dynamic AMOLED technology generation as the S21 Ultra, tiny bezels, and an adaptive 1-120Hz refresh rate. The center top has a tiny punch hole camera, and the entire panel is protected by the latest Gorilla Glass Victus.

Samsung has been the market leader in display quality for the last few years, having ironed out a few kinks with AMOLED technology, and this latest panel only extends its lead. With the usual two color modes, Vivid (the default) and toned down Neutral, you get beautifully balanced colors. The big news here is that it has the highest peak brightness on a phone to date, at 1,750 nits (the S21 Ultra maxed out at 1,500 nits).

S Pen

The Galaxy S22 Ultra, like a Note phone, has a S Pen tucked neatly inside the phone, so it’s always with you.

The S Pen looks very similar to the one on the last available Note, the Note 20 Ultra. However, it is now made of matte plastic rather than the glossy finish that Samsung previously used, and we must say that we much prefer this look. The S Pen cap matches the color of the S22 Ultra, so if you get a Burgundy phone, the cap on its S Pen will be red as well, while the body is black on all models.

The S Pen’s big improvement is its faster response time, which is now only 2.8ms. This is a 3X faster latency than the Note 20 Ultra’s 9ms. Amazing work, and clearly the best Samsung has done so far! Is it as immediate as writing with a physical pen on paper? Not at all! Even if you’re just taking notes, you’ll notice a slight disconnect and lag as the writing appears a split second later.

The S Pen software, on the other hand, is identical to that of the Note series. The Samsung Notes app serves as the central hub for notes, and other cool features such as lockscreen notes and Air Gestures remain. Samsung has also enhanced its handwriting to text recognition technology.

Performance and Software

As is customary with Samsung flagships, there is some debate about the processor under the hood. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor will power the Galaxy S22 Ultra in the United States, while the Exynos 2200 processor will power the Galaxy S22 Ultra in the United Kingdom and Europe. Historically, Exynos chips have been slower and less power efficient than their Snapdragon counterparts.

The Snapdragon chip has a nearly 10% CPU advantage over the Exynos 2200 model (less in multi-core performance), as shown in the image above, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a difference in battery life and even camera quality. Of course, more testing is required, so don’t make any snap decisions just yet.

Surprisingly, the base model Galaxy S22 Ultra has less RAM than the previous edition: an 8GB version is the base model, compared to 12GB on the previous edition (a 12GB S22 Ultra is still an option for a slight premium). Keep in mind that different countries receive different phone configurations.

Before we get into the benchmark results, we need to talk about the One UI and Samsung’s kinks. To begin with, it is obvious that this phone is fast: it has the most powerful chip available on the Android platform, and it has firepower. At the same time, a few issues with One UI have persisted over the years and should be addressed. One is the gesture navigation, which lacks the smooth animations found on a Pixel, OnePlus, or iPhone, and frequently stutters, especially when you swipe up to return to the home screen. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it is a constant annoyance.

The second issue is a strange jitter that appears every now and then while scrolling. It’s a micro-stutter that you notice most on vertically scrolling apps like Twitter or when browsing the web, and it’s not something you’ll find on other phones; it’s a Samsung thing.

Those two flaws, however, are minor and will not be reflected in a speed test, which we are confident the S22 Ultra will pass. In that vein, here are the benchmark scores, which are in line with what you’d expect from a 2022 flagship.

This phone uses a new vapor chamber system to help cool it down while gaming, and the large screen combined with 120 Hertz makes it an absolute dream machine for gamers everywhere.

The 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test, which runs for 20 minutes and shows not only the initial burst of performance, but also how much the phone throttles after a few minutes of gaming, is available below.

On the storage front, you have the base model with 128GB native storage, but you also get a 256GB version for $100 more, a 512GB model for $100 more, and a 1TB option for $1,600 in some markets. Because there is no microSD card slot on the S22 Ultra, it’s critical that you select the appropriate amount of storage, and for such a flagship, we’d recommend 256GB as the sweet spot for most people.

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The S22 Ultra comes pre-installed with Android 12 and Samsung’s One UI 4.1 on top. While Android 12 introduces a brand-new visual style on some phones, such as Google Pixels, the One UI used in the Galaxy maintains a very familiar “Samsung look.”

The big news, however, is that Samsung promises four years of major OS updates with the S22 series, which is more than any other Android phone manufacturer! You will also receive 5 years of security updates. This effectively means that in the future, the S22 Ultra will receive Android versions 13, 14, 15, and 16. This is fantastic news, and it will undoubtedly increase the value of the Samsung flagship!

Camera

Sensor sizes and pixel counts remain unchanged (the telephoto lenses have slightly smaller sensors), but Samsung claims the main camera has an improved version of the sensor and is paired with an even wider lens than the S21 Ultra’s 24mm lens.

The big camera promise here is to “break the night,” and here are our first camera samples from a cloudy London night:

These night samples demonstrate how a smarter phone can capture more vibrant colors even at night.

However, after hundreds of photos and dozens of videos taken with the camera on the S22 Ultra, we have a love-hate relationship with it.

While the main camera is still mostly good, having such a wide lens can cause detail loss in the corners of an image. Image processing has also changed: the S22 Ultra aggressively lifts shadows, and colors often appear bleak and lacking saturation with the main camera, whereas photos from the S21 Ultra appear more vibrant and pleasing to the eye. That is the “hate” in the relationship.

Simultaneously, Samsung has improved the one camera feature that distinguishes the S22 Ultra: the 10X zoom! The previous-generation Ultra impressed us, but this new edition has much cleaner detail and — in contrast to the main camera — more vibrant and lively colors. Simply put, this is a significant improvement, and we adore it!

Another noteworthy addition is the new Adaptive Pixel mode. To use it, you must switch to the 108MP full resolution mode, and it essentially combines the 108MP full-res shot with a pixel-binned photo with higher brightness for a single superior end result. Just keep in mind that each of those photos is between 20MB and 30MB in size!

In addition, Samsung promises excellent Portrait Mode quality, with the phone recognizing individual strands of hair and separating them from the blurry background in a portrait shot. Portrait Mode will astound you if you don’t expect DSLR-quality results. It’s the most accurate of any phone we tried at separating subject from background, and it produces nice, creamy bokeh. However, it is not without flaws. Flying hair strands are still a problem. Yes, it outperforms the competition, but it’s not as revolutionary as Samsung’s marketing materials would have you believe.

There is also a lot of buzz surrounding the new Samsung Expert RAW feature, which offers 16-bit RAW capture as well as professional-level camera controls.

On the video front, the S22 Ultra can record in 8K and 4K resolutions (though there is no 4K120 option like on other phones).

Samsung advertises smoother stabilization using the Super Steady mode, but that option is still limited to 1080p resolution, which means you lose a lot of detail. Regular stabilization is still more than adequate, and we prefer to use it in most cases. During the day, you get vibrant colors and steady video, as well as absolutely stunning footage with the 3X and 10X zoom cameras. The S22 Ultra has a better “clear” lens at night, which results in less light flare. Overall, this is a very good camera. Is it the best there is? It’s still a little inconsistent and noisy when compared to, say, an iPhone, but it’s not far behind.

Audio Quality and Haptics

It’s not surprising that, like the previous model, the S22 Ultra lacks a headphone jack. To use wired headphones, you’ll need to purchase an adapter or a pair of USB-C headphones (not included in the box with the phone).

But what about the phone audio that comes through the speakers? You have two loudspeakers, as before, a bottom-firing main one and an earpiece helper speaker, but this time the bottom firing one is on the bottom left rather than the bottom right. When I played Five Finger Death Punch’s Wrong Side of Heaven, the Galaxy S22 Ultra sounded similar to last year’s model in that it emphasizes the vocals, but it was a little quieter.

That’s unfortunate because other phones’ audio performance has improved: the iPhone 13 Pro Max, in particular, provides depth and overall clarity, resulting in a richer, more fuller sound, whereas the S22 Ultra sounds muffled in comparison. The Pixel 6 Pro also has a deeper, more oomph sound.

Haptics, on the other hand, feel nice and precise, and are useful for providing extra feedback while typing, playing games, or simply keeping track of notifications.

Battery Life and Charging

Samsung previously used a large, 5,000mAh battery in the S21 Ultra and S20 Ultra models, and while the S22 and S22 Plus models get smaller batteries, the S22 Ultra battery size remains unchanged.

So… how about the battery life? In real-world testing, we discovered that the S22 Ultra drains particularly quickly if you use the camera frequently. On a day that began around 9:20 a.m. with a fully charged battery, I used the phone intermittently for social media and then shot about an hour and a half of photos and videos, and the phone was drained to 8% by 6 p.m., so I had to top it up to use it at night.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: Summary and Final Verdict

Should you purchase the Galaxy S22 Ultra? That’s a difficult one. The S22 Ultra feels more like a Note than a S series phone. So, for Note users and those who value the S Pen, it’s the newest and, for the most part, only option in town. And a very potent one at that!

Still, loyal fans will notice the company abandoning features that it valued just a few years ago, such as the microSD card slot. But our main concern has to be the battery situation: we’re not sure why, but this massive battery isn’t holding up very well so far. We also have a love-hate relationship with the camera, which can both disappoint with the main shooter and its often bleak colors while also wowing us with its incredible zoom cameras.

However, this is the one Android phone that we are confident Samsung will update and polish. Everything else is fantastic: the refined design, the stunning display, the S Pen, the powerful processor, and faster charging. So, yes, we recommend the S22 Ultra, but with caution: it’s clearly a very good phone, albeit with a few unexpected kinks that need to be worked out.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Samsung galaxy s22 ultra
Author Rating
51star1star1star1star1star
Product Name
galaxy s22 ultra
Price
USD 1,149.00
Product Availability
Available in Stock

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